If it ain’t broke … fix it?

UW-Madison Provost Paul DeLuca, Jr., has proposed a restructuring of  the graduate school that would split its research function from graduate education. While the details of the proposed changes remain hazy (update: some details are now clarified in the video linked to below), it is clear  that the consequences could be far-reaching in terms of impact on both the research and graduate education missions of the University.  It is essential that faculty and staff pay close attention to this issue and exercise their right to weigh in on this decision under the established UW tradition of shared governance.

At this university, the Dean of the Graduate School is currently also the Vice Chancellor for Research (VCR). The Provost has proposed to separate the research function from the Graduate School.  To our knowledge, no specific and substantive problem has been identified that would justify such a radical restructuring with all of its attendant risks and disruptions.

Our success as one of the top research universities in the nation is outstanding and showing no signs of faltering.  According to parameters such as total research dollars expended, we have been in the top 5 of all research universities in this nation for each of the past 25 years.  Other renowned universities such as MIT come and go from the top 5, and others, like Cornell, have not been in this elite grouping for over a decade.

If the University elects to make changes to what has been a demonstrably successful partnership between graduate education and research, it must do so in a way that (a) satisfies the university community as to its necessity and (b) does not weaken the prospects for continued success.

The Dean of the Graduate School (in his/her current dual role as Vice Chancellor of Research) is mainly responsible for deciding how to disburse the important and unique annual WARF funds.  These funds support the Fall competition, startup and retention packages, fellowships, as well as special projects and matching funds for instrument and training grants.

If, as proposed, the DGS and VCR functions are separated, we do not currently know how the new office of Vice Chancellor of Research will be structured.  Perhaps more importantly, we (the faculty) may have no input into that structure or function because currently there are no mechanisms for shared governance in such an office.

Among other things, it has been proposed that the VCR would be in charge of the discretionary part of the WARF funds (retention and startup packages, for example) and, perhaps also, the oversight of the 17 Centers, while the DGS would remain in charge of the fall competition for WARF dollars, as well as overall graduate education.  We are concerned that this new structure could lead to a marginalization of graduate education, one of the hallmarks of UW-Madison.

If you are concerned about research on this campus and about upholding the University’s unique tradition of shared governance, we strongly recommend that you go to one of several schedule town hall meetings, ask questions that will help you and your peers understand the details and implications of the proposed changes, and voice your informed opinions, pro or con, concerning any aspect of those changes.

We also urge you to leave your comments expressing your views on this important issue as well as adding any information you might have concerning the practical impacts.

Here are the dates of the remaining town halls:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 22  4-5 p.m., 1106 Mechanical Engineering (UPDATE: WATCH VIDEO FROM THIS FIRST MEETING — you will likely have to download some software to view it)
  • Wed, Sept 30, 4-5, 180 Science Hall (sponsored by L&S)
  • Thurs, Oct 1, 4-5, 1345 Health Sciences Learning Center (sponsored by SMPH)
  • Wed, Oct 14, 12-1, Ebling Center, Microbial Sciences (sponsored by CALS)

Here is the Provost’s office’s Powerpoint-style overview in PDF format of the proposed changes.

– the Editors

This entry was posted in Graduate School, Restructuring proposal, The UW-Madison Campus. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to If it ain’t broke … fix it?

  1. Steve Ackerman says:

    This is not just a proposal of the Provost, but is a plan lead by the Chancellor.

Comments are closed.